If 2020 was when many of us first became obsessed with charts – daily Covid case figures and “flattening the curve” – subsequent years have only proven how important they are for making sense of the world around us.
In 2022, our daily diet of data continued. Lines, bars and maps routinely pepper daily news stories and reports. Everything, it seems, can be tracked and mapped; from how many government ministers have resigned in one day (a record 36 on 6 July) to exactly how much we would swelter in July’s record-breaking heatwave.
Here is Raconteur’s pick of the 12 charts that helped us define and explain a year of flux for businesses and the world.
The invasion of Ukraine
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February this year, igniting months of conflict with no clear end in view. Many of the charts below deal with the fallout of the war but the significant ramification of all has been its human impact. Almost 8 million Ukrainians have fled the country over the past 10 months, representing Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the second world war.
Russian fossil fuel sanctions
The EU, UK and US, among other nations, swiftly sanctioned Russian businesses. This drove energy prices to record heights across the world and spurred calls for Europe to switch to renewable sources. But many nations that depend on Russian gas, oil and coal were forced to continue purchasing, with one analysis reporting that EU countries have paid €120bn (about £105bn) to Russia for fossil fuels since February. Other commodities, including aluminium, nickel, copper and wheat, have also soared in price following the invasion.
Soaring energy costs, along with the lingering effects of the pandemic on global supply chains, led to spiralling inflation in 2022. In the UK, this peaked at 11.1% in October – a four-decade record. The cost-of-living crisis became one of the biggest stories of the year as millions of Britons struggled to make ends meet and the government stepped in to discount energy bills.
Interest rates soar
After years of rock-bottom interest rates, the Bank of England hiked the cost of borrowing nine times in a row during 2022 in an attempt to curb inflation. The base rate now stands at 3.5%. Homeowners on variable-rate mortgages have been left repaying hundreds of pounds more per month, while many businesses have found it harder to secure financing.
The political sphere was no less eventful than the economic during 2022. Liz Truss set a record for the shortest tenure as prime minister after just 44 days in office. Her vision of a “low-tax, high-growth economy” quickly backfired after her reforms caused chaos in the stock market. New leader Rishi Sunak has so far failed to turn around his party’s popularity, with the Conservatives expected to lose hundreds of seats at the next election.
Nurses, train workers, refuse collectors, barristers, postal workers and many more all walked out over below-inflation pay rises, unfair working conditions or changes to their contracts. While the rising wave of industrial action has been dominating headlines, it is still not at historically high levels, with thousands more working days lost to strikes during the 1978-79 winter of discontent.
Tight labour market
Unemployment has been falling in the UK and across much of the western world since the start of the pandemic. Job vacancies have reached record highs, now standing at around 1.2 million as thousands more people drop out of the workforce. It has led to unprecedented competition for talent among employers. Recently, though, the rate of increase has started to slow, perhaps reflecting the expected recession.
Post-lockdowns, there is a growing divide between employers mandating that employees return to work in the office and those still operating on a hybrid- or remote-working basis. Could the great return be on the horizon? According to LinkedIn, the number of jobs advertised as remote-only slumped six percentage points over the year to just 9%. But those postings still attracted more than a fifth of all applications, showing just how in demand this remains among employees.
Bumper M&A deals
Microsoft kicked off 2022 by announcing its intent to acquire game studio Activision Blizzard for $69bn (about £56bn), in what would be one of the largest M&A deals (the US watchdog is currently opposing the purchase). Among the many other bumper tech deals this year, one stood out. Billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter in October and has since embarked on a series of attention-grabbing changes at the social network.
Tech layoffs bite
One of Musk’s first moves at Twitter was to make half of its staff redundant. He was not alone. Hundreds of other tech companies announcing swingeing cuts to workforces this autumn, including Facebook-owner Meta’s first layoffs. The cuts prompted talk of a “second dot-com bust”, which will be a major story to watch in 2023.
Dozens of heat records were smashed in the summer heatwave. A new high temperature for the UK was recorded at Coningsby, Lincolnshire on 19 July. The previous record was set just three years ago. The first nine months of the year were the hottest on record in Britain, while 2022 already looks set to be one of the world’s warmest.
Clean energy gains
The UK continues to gain ground in clean energy as it races to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. In February this year, wind generated a record percentage of British electricity, 45.1%. Meanwhile, coal continues to be phased out, with one of the lowest amounts used to power the national grid in May.